San Marco Eagle Scout awarded Boys Scouts’ highest honor

San Marco Eagle Scout awarded Boys Scouts’ highest honor
North Florida Boy Scout Executive and CEO Jack Sears with High Honor of the Crossed Palms recipient Ross Johnson

A Jacksonville University sophomore and Eagle Scout received national acclaim when he was awarded the Boy Scouts of America’s highest honor Jan. 12.

Ross C. Johnson, 20, of San Marco, was awarded the Boy Scout’s High Honor Medal of Crossed Palms during a BSA National Court of Honor held at All Saints Episcopal Church. Presenting the award was North Florida Scout Executive and CEO Jack Sears. The High Honor Medal of Crossed Palms is awarded to Boy Scout youth members or adult leaders who have demonstrated unusual heroism and extraordinary skill or resourcefulness in saving or attempting to save a life at extreme risk to themselves. The medal has been awarded fewer than 300 times since its inception in 1924, according to the Boy Scouts’ website.

Johnson was recognized with the prestigious medal for his bravery when he saved a young teenage stranger from drowning at Neptune Beach on May 17, 2020. For his bravery, Johnson was presented with the prestigious Lifesaving Award by the Neptune Beach City Council, during a meeting Aug. 3, 2020.

During the National Court of Honor in January, Sears also read a proclamation of congratulations from Florida Senator Marco Rubio.

Johnson was planning to have dinner with his family and some friends in Neptune Beach when the group decided to take a short walk on the beach. He quickly responded when a screaming woman came running out of the water calling desperately for help because her 13-year-old nephew, who did not know how to swim, had been swept at least 150 yards offshore in a rip current.

Seeing no lifeguards on duty or floatation devices available nearby, Johnson urgently yanked off his shirt and shoes and emptied his pockets before running into the water. The sea was rough because Tropical Storm Arthur was raging some distance off the coast, making the long, arduous swim and rescue of the victim more difficult. After it was over, Neptune Beach paramedics ambulanced the young teen to a nearby hospital, and Johnson credited skills he had learned in Boy Scout Troop 136 with his ability save the boys’ life.

Johnson began his scouting career as a Tiger Cub in Pack 35 when he was 7 years old. At age 11, he crossed over to Boy Scout Troop 136 in San Marco. He obtained the rank of Eagle Scout when he was 13 after leading his fellow scouts in an Eagle Project that landscaped and created a new drainage system at Jacksonville University. The project caught the eye of Jacksonville University President Tim Cost, who offered Johnson a full-tuition President’s scholarship.

“Isn’t it a bright spot that scouting played such a role in someone else’s life?” said Sears, noting the contribution Johnson’s scout training had in saving the life of a teenage stranger. “Every person in this room can celebrate and feel good about what you are doing for your families and other families to help perpetuate life-saving skills that truly make a difference.” Sears also added that in his 35-year tenure of working professionally for the Boy Scouts of America, Johnson’s award was only the second High Honor of Crossed Palms Medal he had the privilege to present.

During the ceremony, Johnson thanked all his scoutmasters over the years. “If it was not for the skills that I learned in Troop 136, I would not have been able to help that young man,” he said, addressing the scouts in the audience. “I encourage you to have fun as you work hard. Pay close attention and learn all you can. The skills you learn on your journey throughout scouts will greatly help you in life. Thank you and be prepared.”

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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